Heterogeneity in the asexual community

6 enero 2017

Esta entrada es una colaboración para el carnaval de blogs, que este mes trata sobre diferentes formas de ser asexual. Escribo en inglés porque es el idioma de este carnaval, pero hay una traducción aquí.

Despite not being two similar asexuals, even within subcategories, I still notice a great divide between romantics and aromantics. Although the border between both is blurred, existing a wide and diverse grey zone, I still find useful the distinction between romantics and aromantics. Whilst the divide between asexual with and without libido, which completed the now-obsolete ABCD model, deals with more private issues, the divide about romantic attraction has to do with the way the asexuals behave socially, especially about pairing off. We deal with very different societal pressures. In my first asexual meet-up, the host said in the introduction “I assume you all have sexual experience,” to which I replied “No, I don’t, and I’ve never felt pressured into it.” The point was that I was the only aromantic at the meet-up, and this made my experiences around sex very different to others’. Although there are people who, being aromantic in ignorance, succumbed to the pressure to pair off and so had to bear the pressure to have sex too, most experiences I’ve heard from asexuals could be roughly classified as, either happily single and celibate, or with couple issues around sex. Each group use to feel only one of the two aforesaid societal pressures, with exceptions. For instance, some happily single guys, once accepted as confirmed bachelors, feel pressure to get laid.

Contrary to the divide discussed in the previous paragraph, which can be recognized from the asexual’s story, there is another piece of information that should be provided in order to know where the asexual comes from and how society treat them: the so-called sex assigned at birth. I don’t mean the gender identity, which is stated in the user’s profile, but the sex assigned at birth, the socially recognized, especially by the most conservative ones, unless they go stealth. Whilst gender identity is necessary for politely addressing the other users, the sex assigned at birth is necessary for properly understanding the societal reactions and giving better advice. The more conservative the society where the asexual lives, the more relevant their sex-at-birth is. I am a cis guy, thus I state so in my profile. If I were trans and felt mislabeled by my sex-at-birth, I would consider using a formula in my profile that let other users know. But, recalling the previous month’s topic, it’s a matter of personal privacy to decide what data to share online.

Despite, their usefulness at introductions, the aforesaid categories are not clear cut, since Natura non facit saltus [Nature doesn’t make jumps]. We should not replace a homogeneous stereotype of asexuality with a discrete set of them, since it would be the same mistake at another level. I want to end with some words from Kinsey Report:

The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats. Not all things are black nor all things white. It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories. Only the human mind invents categories and tries to force facts into separated pigeon-holes. The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects. The sooner we learn this concerning human sexual behavior, the sooner we shall reach a sound understanding of the realities of sex.

PS. Another divide, in this case inside the romantic community, is discussed in this post at A Life Unexamined. Roughly speaking, it divides between aros driven to couplehood or driven to singlehood. The stereotype of aromantics I mentioned would correspond to those driven to singlehood. Anyway, its author’s conclusion is similar to mine.

Naming and discovering new categories

31 agosto 2016

Esta entrada es una colaboración para el carnaval de blogs. Escribo en inglés porque es el idioma de este carnaval.

When I first came across the asexual community and read the descriptions of the terms it used, I didn’t identify with it initially, though these distinctions made a lot of sense to me. Despite the definition of the word “asexual” was a bit undefined that time because of the vagueness of “sexual attraction,” I considered really necessary to separate sex drive, sexual attraction and romantic attraction. Because of the lack of a good definition of “sexual attraction,” I considered myself hetero-hyposexual, but I immediately felt that the word “aromatic” described myself, so I wrote in my AVEN description “strongly aromantic.” Through discussion of the concept of “sexual attraction,” I finally recognized I had always been asexual, but I didn’t feel as identified as when I learnt of aromanticism. But the best word I found in the asexual community for describing myself was “squish.”

My reference for the definition of squish has always been the blog post Squish! by Trix. I had experienced squishes before, but I misidentified them heteronormatively as crushes if they were on girls and irrelevant if they were on boys. In the terminology of an older post, lacking the platonic category, I misclassified the girl squishes as romantic and the boy squishes as social. I think they would have been better classified as social, but amatonormativity made me consider some of them actual crushes. But they were platonic, and the word “squish” opened my eyes to a new category where I could recast many relevant feelings of my life. The platonic category has simplified the understanding of my feelings since I was aware of it, and the word “squish” has allowed an accurate communication with other members of the asexual community about my feelings.

The word “squish” was a breaking point of my policy about translation of asexuality terms between English and Spanish. Initially I kept a dictionary so that I could speak of asexuality in both languages, but I couldn’t find a word for “squish,” and the Spanish word “platónico” is quite different from the English word “platonic.” Anyway, the platonic category was so useful that we needed to use it in Spanish regardless the denomination. Some years later, some Spanish-speaking aromantic activists proposed terms for this category, like “arrobo” or “arrobamiento” for “squish” and “afectivo” for “platonic”, but the years when I had to use the English ones made hard for me to adapt to the new ones, especially “afectivo” because of it’s prone to confusion.

Other people may live happily unaware of the platonic category, but for me it was lacking words for one of our senses. If we identify the platonic feelings with hearing and romantic feelings with sight, my previous life was lacking terms for the sounds, being blind in a visual society. When I heard music, I thought I had to be seeing something. Realizing I was blind and that sound was a sensible reality, I could enjoy the music for itself.

Kinds of attraction: an analogy from phonology

28 agosto 2015

Versión en español

This post is a translation of the relevant parts of Tipos de atracción una analogía desde la fonología (in Spanish).

This post continues the discussion and the terminology of Asocial: the final frontier?, which I now review. First, we have romantic attraction, understood as separate from sexual attraction. Second, we have platonic attraction, and then the social attraction. In that post we considered the question of whether there is attraction further than the social one. Today we shall discuss what there is in between.

With each of these kinds of attraction there is a corresponding kind of relationship. For platonic attraction, the community coined the terms squish for the instances and objects of the attraction and zucchini for the partner in this relationship, though many people deem the latter unnecessary, having friend with adjectives. The issue is that friendship includes both the platonic and the social meanings. This post will deal with the relation between the classic trichotomy partner-friend-acquaintance and the finer distinction romantic-platonic-social-acquaintance, using as a source of analogy the phonology of Spanish and Catalan (a language spoken in Eastern regions of Spain, in bilingualism with Spanish).

Stressed vowels of Spanish and Catalan

Stressed vowels of Spanish and Catalan

Catalan language has 7 stressed vowels (à, è, é, í, ò, ó, ú) compared to the 5 ones of Spanish language (A, E, I, O, U). While in Catalan there is semantic difference between è and é, to the Spanish ear both sound like E, resorting to adjective (like open and closed) in order to distinguish them. The same happens with ò and ó, which sound like O to the Spanish ear, though I will focus on the E. In the spectrum between the A and the I, Spanish language sets 3 vowels (A, E, I), while Catalan language sets 4 (à, è, é, í), with the consequent differences it has for classifying a vowel in this spectrum.

Well, I think the same happens with the difference between couple and friendship and between friendship and acquaintanceship. As far as I know, for the precise discussion it is more useful to set 4 points in this spectrum (à=romantic, è=platonic, é=social, í=acquaintance) instead of only 3 (A=couple, E=friend, I=acquaintance), though a person whose ear is used to the the concept of friendship (opposite to couple and to acquaintanceship) will find the same kind of problems as the Spanish speaker that hears in Catalan è and é. Especially, in case of need to distinguish two different concepts, they will use one of their native categories (like friendship) qualified by an adjective (like close).

Tipos de atracción: una analogía desde la fonología

10 agosto 2015

Esta entrada continúa la discusión y la terminología de Asocial: ¿la última frontera?, que repaso a continuación. En primer lugar tenemos la atracción romántica, entendida como separada de la atracción sexual. Después tenemos la atracción platónica, la que busca la amistad más estrecha, y luego la atracción social. En aquella entrada nos planteamos la cuestión de si hay atracción más allá de la social. Hoy discutiremos lo que hay entremedias.

A cada uno de estos tipos de atracción se corresponde un tipo de relación. Para la atracción platónica, la que más polémica ha dado respecto a su denominación, en inglés han acuñado los términos squish para las casos y objetos de la atracción y zucchini para el compañero en esta relación. En español se ha escogido arrobo o arrobamiento para los casos de atracción platónica, pero no parece que haya necesidad de un término para la relación, salvo amigo con calificativos. El problema está en que el campo semántico de la amistad incluye tanto lo platónico como lo social. Esta entrada tratará sobre la relación entre la tricotomía clásica pareja-amigo-conocido y la distinción más fina romántico-platónico-social-conocido, utilizando como fuente de analogía la fonología del castellano y el catalán.

Vocales tónicas de castellano y del catalán

Vocales tónicas de castellano y del catalán

El catalán tiene 7 vocales tónicas (à, è, é, í, ò, ó, ú) frente a las 5 del castellano (A, E, I, O, U). Mientras que en catalán hay diferencia semántica entre è y é, a oídos castellanos ambas suenan E, y las diferenciamos recurriendo a adjetivos (abierta y cerrada). Lo mismo pasa con ò y ó, que nos suenan O, aunque me voy a centrar en la E. En el espectro entre la A y la I, el castellano fija 3 vocales (A, E, I), mientras que el catalán fija 4 (à, è, é, í), con las consecuentes diferencias que eso tiene a la hora de clasificar una vocal en ese espectro.

Pues lo mismo creo que ocurre con la diferencia entre pareja y amistad y entre amistad y conocidos. Según entiendo yo, para la discusión precisa resulta más útil fijar 4 puntos en ese espectro (à=romántico, è=platónico, é=social, í=conocido) en lugar de sólo 3 (A=pareja, E=amigo, I=conocido), aunque quien tiene el oído hecho al concepto de amistad (frente a pareja y a conocidos) encontrará los mismos problemas que el hispanohablante que escucha en catalán la è y la é. En particular, en caso de tener que diferenciar dos realidades distintas, utilizará una de sus clasificaciones nativas (como amistad) y le añadirá adjetivos (como estrecha).

Otros modelos bidimensionales

3 agosto 2015

Reanudo la serie Orientaciones Sexuales que dejé interrumpida hace 5 años. Recordamos la escala de Kinsey, que se discutió en Bisexualidad y el espectro y que, coloreada como un arcoíris, queda de la siguiente manera.
Escala de Kinsey coloreada como un arcoíris
Al espectro unidimensional que va de 0 a 6, se añade un punto aislado X de los asexuales. En Más allá del espectro bisexual discutimos el modelo de Storms, que separa las componentes heterosexual y homosexual, dando lugar a un cuadrado con las cuatro orientaciones sexuales cardinales: heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual y asexual. Pasando a coordenadas polares este modelo, podemos expresar la posición en el espectro por intensidad de la atracción (el módulo) y grado de Kinsey (el argumento), como viene representado en el siguiente gráfico.
El modelo de Storms en coordenadas polares
La diferencia entre ambos sistemas de coordenadas es la misma que los sistemas de regulación del agua caliente para la ducha. Los más sencillos, que tienen una llave diferente para al agua fría y para el agua caliente, serían como el modelo de Storms. Los más sofisticados, que tienen un regulador de la temperatura y una llave que regula el flujo, serían como las coordenadas polares, siendo el paralelismo entre la temperatura y la escala de Kinsey y entre el flujo de agua y la intensidad de la atracción. Obsérvese que cuando la llave del flujo está cerrada, da igual la posición del regulador de la temperatura.

Mientras en el ámbito académico surgió el modelo de Storms, en los foros de Internet nació el triángulo de AVEN. Este triángulo es equilátero con el vértice hacia abajo. Sobre el lado superior se situaba la escala de Kinsey, entendiendo que las paralelas a este lado eran también escalas de Kisney pero con intensidad decreciente según se baja, hasta llegar al vértice inferior, el punto X de Kinsey, donde la escala de Kinsey confluye porque faltando la atracción no hay diferencia. Este triángulo oscurece la región hiposexual, destacándola. El siguiente dibujo compara el triángulo de AVEN con los modelos anteriores.
Triángulo de AVEN

Para saber más sobre el origen del triángulo de AVEN, ver esta historia de la comunidad asexual (en inglés) que se encuentra en Asexual Explorations.

Bidimensional models for asexuality and gender identity

31 enero 2015

Esta entrada es una colaboración para el carnaval de blogs, que este mes trata sobre asexualidad y género no binario. Escribo en inglés porque es el idioma de este carnaval.

Disclaimer: In this post I use the word “gender” with is psychosocial meaning, not as an euphemism for “sex.”

Thinking of this month’s topic of Carnival of Aces, Non-binary People and Asexuality, I remembered that the celebrated Storms binary model of sexual orientation (Storms, 1980) is based, as he states in the article, on a previous bidimensional model of what he calls “sex role” and yields four categories: undifferentiated, masculine, feminine and androgynous. Applied to sexual orientation, the model yields the four categories well known in the asexual community: asexual, heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual. One could naively try to harmonize the terminology and rename Storms’s “sex role” categories as agender, masculine, feminine and bigender, but I think this goes astray of the established terminology. For instance, if I’m not wrong, a bigender person has two gender identities, in different regions of the bidimensional spectrum, contrary to an androgyne, who has one gender identity in the androgynous sector. Thus, gender is (a priori) more complicated than sexual orientation, since one can have a different number of gender identities, from none to a continuum, in the Storms-like spectrum.

Storms’s model of sexual orientation (on the left) and the corresponding model of gender identity (on the right).

The part of non-binary-ness that could be compared to asexuality is what Storms calls “undifferentiated.” I’m not a fan of this terminology, but I will use it for want of a better one. Another related term is “agender,” which seems to be polysemic. According to Neutrois Nonsense, “agender” may refer to the absence of gender identity and to one gender identity in the “undifferentiated” sector. Though only the latter is parallel to asexuality, there was an old opinion (now dismissed) of asexuality as lack of sexual orientation. In my opinion, the simpler model of sexual orientation leaves no room for a lack of sexual orientation, but the more complicatedness of gender allows two different concepts: genderless and gender-neutral.

Yet there is another concept which can be confused with genderless-ness and gender-neutral-ness, and it’s the strength of gender identity. Theoretically speaking, a weak gender identity is close to genderless, but in practice it’s difficult to distinguish a weakening a gender identity fixed at one point of the bidimensional spectrum from moving this point of the spectrum toward the origin. What’s the difference between weakly feeling 100% masculine and strongly feeling 50% masculine? If I’m not wrong, the latter identity is called “demiguy”, so we could rephrase this question as “What’s the difference between weakly feeling a guy and strongly feeling a demiguy?”.

References: Michael D. Storms, 1980. Theories of Sexual OrientationJournal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 38, no. 5, pp. 783-792.

My experience with asexuality, marriage and Christian religion

26 octubre 2014

Esta entrada es una colaboración para el carnaval de blogs, que este mes trata sobre asexualidad y religión. Escribo en inglés porque es el idioma de este carnaval.

I am not religious nowadays, but I was raised Roman Catholic, which is the traditional religion in Spain. I am asexual aromantic, and singlehood is my natural state, though I lacked unmarried role models in my childhood, except in the Church. So religion was for me the proof that marriage is a choice, and not something unavoidable and irresistible everyone experiences when grown up. It is therefore understandable that I considered becoming a priest when a child. Later I detached myself from the Church because of the hypocrisy of its people, who make prophetic the words of Matthew 23 that Jesus addressed to the Pharisees.

Fortunately, when I left the sheepfold, I already knew that marriage is a choice, but I still had to bear the societal pressure to match, maybe tempered by the Catholic tradition. I don’t know from experience what happens in Protestant societies, but from what I read in the asexual blogosphere, the pressure to marry is stronger there, probably because they lack unmarried role models. But I think that, though the priestly celibacy is questionable, the Catholic doctrine of celibacy is righter than the Protestant one. The latter, who allegedly follow the sola scriptura policy, are forgetting the doctrine of Saint Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, who clearly states the following.

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. […] But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. — 1 Corinthians 7:1-2,6-9

I had to remind this passage a few times in AVEN because the Protestants ignore these verses. I shall assume bona fide they did for ignorance, but I feel tempted to think that they are teaching as God’s commandment what is plainly human tradition, as Jesus himself condemned.

Another biblical passage that I had to quote in AVEN, though less clear than the Pauline excerpt above, is the so-called verse of the eunuchs. I know there is controversy because of the exact meaning(s) of the word “eunuch” in the verse, with the Christian gay groups preaching it refers to homosexuals, but I shall not enter here the discussion. I will only notice that “eunuch” did not mean exclusively “castrated”, as the Justinian compilation proves, but I may blog about this in another occasion. The verse, in context, is the following.

And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. — Matthew 19:9-12

Jesus is clearly speaking of marriage in this passage, clearly claiming that marriage is not for everybody. The verse of the eunuchs is an (obscure) explanation of this statement. This “marriage is not for everybody” thing is something that the Protestants are forgetting again. So I’m glad I had been raised in Roman Catholicism rather than in Protestantism because of its acceptance of unmarried life.